It’s my favorite time of year again. The leaves have nearly all fallen and we’re heading full steam into the holiday season. In this house, that means Gingerbread, and LOTS of it!
I baked our first houses of the season the other morning and friends, let me tell you, there is nothing greater than the smell of gingerbread in the morning. My girls were so excited when they came downstairs, you would have thought it was Christmas day. Honestly, it’s worth baking this recipe just for the smell alone!
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Gingerbread house baking has been a long standing tradition in my family. My parents have been hosting an annual gingerbread house decorating party for over 20 years now and after the birth of my first child, I started my own as well. And in case you ever wondered where I learned to do everything from scratch, you won’t have to look further than my parents.
Their gingerbread house decorating party prep always included baking and assembling 20-40 ginger bread houses. So, yes, the smell of gingerbread, definitely means the holidays are here for me!
Now, I should note that I’m not actually vegan. I just noticed that most of the recipes out there for gingerbread included copious quantities of butter and since my recipe is already vegan, it seemed prudent to label it as such, so that anyone who is vegan, could find it with ease. This recipe really is the best. Because it has shortening, your houses will last through the whole season and because of the amazing spices and orange zest, it will also taste delicious!
Not only that, but it is honestly the easiest dough to work with! Its not at all like a typical cutout cookie recipe, with all of the sticking and chilling and trying not to add too much flour. I don’t know about y’all but I feel constantly at battle whenever I make cutout cookies. But this recipe is quite the opposite, its actually super easy to work with!
It moves quickly though, so you’ll want to gather all of your ingredients and supplies at the start.
You will need:
- 4 C flour
- 1 t baking soda
- 2 t ground ginger
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1 t ground nutmeg
- 1 t salt
- 1 C shortening
- 1 C sugar
- 3/4 C molasses
- 1/4 C corn syrup
- 1T orange or clementine zest
- 2T water
- large pot (big enough to hold the whole recipe)
- 2 baking sheets (preferably ones without a lip on the edge)
- rolling pin
- house templates
- sharp paring knife
- (optional) small shaped cookie cutter (I usually use a star, but you can use anything or none)
- cooling rack
You first add your shortening to your large pot and melt it over medium heat. Once it is melted add your sugar, molasses, corn syrup, and orange zest and mix. Once mixed in, remove from heat and add your dry ingredients.
I like to prep all of my dry ingredients ahead of time in my sifter. I put my flour in first and then add my baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt on top of that. That way, when I sift in the flour, the other dry ingredients get mixed in automatically. If you choose not to use a sifter, you could always mix your dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, while your shortening is melting.
Stir in your dry ingredients and add 2T of water. Mix to incorporate. (Note, you can add more or less water if needed, final dough should be a bit tougher or stiffer than childrens’ playdough)
Divide your dough in two and dump one portion directly onto your baking sheet. This is where I really prefer using my airbake cookie sheets since they don’t have a raised edge on three sides. I like to roll out my warm dough directly on my baking sheet. But, if all of your cookie sheets have edges on all sides, don’t worry. You can always roll out your dough on parchment paper and then just lift the parchment paper to the cookie sheet to bake.
Roll out your dough to about an 1/8th inch thick.
Then lay out your templates and cut around them with your paring knife. I usually cut my windows out using a small star cookie cutter but you could always cut them out as rectangles if you prefer.
Next remove all excess dough EXCEPT your windows and doors! Make sure you leave your windows and doors in place during baking. This will keep them from drastically filling back in in the oven.
A few more tips on cutting out your patterns:
- Start with your largest pattern pieces first and then move down in size systematically.
- Keep a log of what you’ve already cut out! You will make yourself crazy trying to remember if you cut a second wall or a second roof piece on the last tray…. not that that’s ever happened in my kitchen. I’ve even included a pattern piece checklist for you with my 3 house pattern at the end of this post.
- If the dough cools too much it will get tough to work with. Microwaving it for 20-30 seconds will warm it up enough to become easily workable again
- Set aside excess dough to reroll at the end
- I get one of each of the 3 house sizes below out of one batch of dough
Then bake at 375 deg F for 9-10 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately retrace all of your cuts with your paring knife and any cookie cutters you used.
I should note that at this point I also like to slide a thin metal spatula underneath all of my gingerbread pieces to loosen them from the baking sheet. I find it much easier to get them to release right away then if I let them cool on the cookie sheet. And since you’ve just baked vital building supplies, any cracks would be incredibly frustrating.
Once I release my gingerbread pieces I leave them on the cookie sheet to cool until stiff enough to transfer to a cooling rack.
Repeat the rolling, cutting, and baking process until you have all of the pieces you need.
Next, whip up some royal icing.
I prefer to use Meringue Powder instead of egg whites (which is also VEGAN, score!) It’s also very handy if you have small kids that help you decorate and are prone to eating frosting and you don’t want them consuming raw eggs.
You will need:
- 2 lbs confectioners’ sugar (sifted)
- 6 T meringue powder
- 10-11 oz warm water
- stand mixer and whisk attachment (or handheld)
First, sift your confectioners sugar into your stand mixer bowl. Then, add meringue powder and warm water. Using a wire whisk attachment, mix on low for 30 seconds to incorporate. Then, turn your mixer up to high and continue to whip up your icing for 7-10 minutes.
Fill a piping bag and affix your piping tip of choice.
If it’s just my family decorating houses I will fill one or two piping bags and leave the rest of the royal icing in the mixing bowl until we’re done. Make sure you cover the bowl with a few layers of damp paper towel to prevent your remaining icing from drying out. And if you don’t have a chance to finish decorating your house in one sitting you can also wrap a damp paper towel around your piping bag tip and place the whole bag in a galon zip lock to come back to later.
Now you’re all set to construct. For all of my general construction tips and a full account of how to assemble the three house stay tuned. My how to assemble a gingerbread house article goes live in two days.
The Best Vegan Gingerbread
- large pot
- baking sheets (ones without a raised edge are ideal)
- Rolling Pin
- paring knife
- cooling rack
- small cookie cutter (optional)
- house templates (optional)
- sifter (optional)
- parchment paper (optional)
- 1 cup shortening
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1 tbsp orange or clementine zest
- 4 cups flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- Add 1 C shortening to large pot and melt over medium heat.
- While its melting, add your dry ingredients (4 C flour, 1 t baking soda, 1 t salt, 1 t cinnamon, 1 t nutmeg, and 2 t ginger) to your sifter or mix together in a seperate bowl and set aside.
- Add 1 C sugar, 3/4 C molasses, 1/4 C corn syrup, and 1 T zest to shortening and mix well.
- Remove from head and add your dry ingredients.
- Mix well and add 2-3 T of water as needed. Dough should be a bit stiffer than childrens playdough.
- Divide dough into two portions.
- Put one portion of dough directly onto edgeless baking sheet (airbake cookie sheets work perfectly for this). If all of your baking sheets have raised edges than put one portion of dough onto a piece of parchment paper on your counter.
- Roll out your dough to about an 1/8th in thick.
- Cut out your house templates, starting with your largest pieces first.
- Cut out your windows and doors using small cookie cutter or knife.
- Remove all excess dough EXCEPT your windows and doors. Leave your windows and doors in place for baking for optimal results.
- If you rolled out your dough on parchment paper, lift it onto a baking sheet now.
- Place baking sheet on middle rack in your oven and bake at 375 F for 9-10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and immediately recut all of your edges, windows, and doors.
- While still hot, slide a very thin spatula under all pieces to lift them off of the cookie sheet.
- Once loosened, leave them on the cookie sheet to cool for several minutes before stiff enough to transfer to cooling rack.
- Let them finish cooking on the cooling rack in a single layer until fully cool and ready to stack or assemble.
Vegan Royal Icing
- stand mixer, bowl, and whisk attachment (or handheld mixer)
- 2 lbs confectioners sugar
- 6 tbsp merangue powder
- 10-11 oz warm water
- Sift 2 lbs confectioners sugar into mixing bowl.
- Add 6 T merangue powder and 10-11 oz warm water.
- Mix on low for 30 seconds to incorporate.
- Mix on high for 7-10 minutes until peaks form and icing is light and shiny.
I chose to make a collection of 3 gingerbread houses this year. To see how I assembled and decorated them check out my post, How to Assemble a Gingerbread House – The Ultimate Guide. In it, I reveal all of my best tips and tricks, some of which learned the hard way, over my many years of gingerbread making. And if you want to make some for your home, download my free printable templates today:
I can’t wait to hear how your gingerbread creations came out, so don’t forget to share below!